Broccoli (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae) is a relative of wild cabbage. In particular, the northern and western coasts of the Mediterranean sea have been abundant in wild cabbages for thousands of years. During this time, different variations appeared, including Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and – of course – broccoli.
It's easy to recognize broccoli: It has a thick stalk and densely-packed flower heads, resembling little trees – which are all edible. The most common types are green broccoli, but purple broccoli exists, as well as those which are greenish-yellow and develop into conical shapes.
Despite broccoli being a low-calorie vegetable, the tree-like veggie packs a lot of nutrients. It contains the same amount of protein as a cup of rice, with a third of the calories. It's also rich in vitamins C, K, and A, as well as folate and soluble fiber.
When consumed, broccoli can be used to treat diseases stemming from nutrient deficiency. These include xerophthalmia (the abnormal dryness of the eyes caused by a lack of vitamin A), infantile scurvy (a disease rooted on vitamin C deficiency), and anemia (a condition caused by folate deficiency). Based on a study, people who consumed 200 g of broccoli daily for seven days showed an increase in the carotenoid lutein and vitamin E.
Broccoli also contains important secondary metabolites which improve the body's detoxification and protect against free radicals and oxidative stress. In particular, glucoraphanin, an ingredient found in broccoli, has been proven to eliminate environmental pollutants and carcinogens through the urine. Another ingredient, sulforaphane, demonstrated an antibiotic effect on Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers, gastritis, and ultimately, gastric cancers. (Related: Broccoli delivers a one-two punch to prevent cancer development and progression.)
The best way to maximize the benefits of broccoli, according to studies, is to get it fresh: Any yellowing or wilting indicates a nutrient loss, and freezing broccoli depletes the quality of its nutrients. Steaming, in particular, increases its antioxidant levels and provides access to its phenols and flavonoids.
Of course, if you don't like eating just steamed broccoli, here's a simple way to make it flavorful and keep its nutrition all at the same time.
Steamed Broccoli with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Lemon
What you will need:
How to do it:
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